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Ethics & Religion
March 29, 2018
Column #1,910
(second of three parts)
7 Men - And The Secret of Their Greatness
By Mike McManus

During this week of Easter, I will profile how two Great Men - Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Jackie Robinson - lived their faith sacrificially for others as portrayed by Eric Metaxas's powerful new book: 7 Men - And The Secret of Their Greatness. Next week I'll report on Pope John Paul II and Charles W. Colson. In Part I of this series, I profiled George Washington, William Wilberforce and Eric Liddell.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor in the years Hitler rose to power. Yet he not only stood up for German Jews, but organized thousands of other pastors in what he called "The Confessing Church" to join with him.

At age 13, Dietrich decided to become a theologian, and earned his Ph.D. at the remarkable age of 21. However, in those days he couldn't be ordained as a pastor until age 25.

So he travelled to America to study at Union Theological Seminary in New York. A friend took him to Harlem to attend the Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Pastor Adam Clayton Powell urged his black congregation not only to be committed to Jesus but to care for the poor as Jesus did. The blond German was so moved, he attended weekly, where he linked the idea of having deep faith in Jesus with taking political and social action.

When Bonhoeffer returned to Germany, Hitler has risen to power, promising to replace long bread lines and rampant unemployment with jobs. Two days after Hitler became chancellor, Bonhoeffer gave a prescient national radio speech publicly opposing him because Hitler was not submitted to a higher authority - God. He said Hitler was not a leader, but a misleader, who would mislead the German people with tragic results.

He led an illegal underground seminary that was shut down by the Gestapo. In June 1939, he sailed to the U.S. to teach at Union Theological Seminary. But after only 26 days, he returned to Germany to join a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. He was arrested and sent to prison for helping seven German Jews to escape. He spent his remaining years in prison, and was hanged by order of Hitler only three weeks before the end of the war.

Bonhoeffer called death "the last station on the road to freedom."

Jackie Robinson lettered in four sports in high school, and was such a gifted runner he was sent to the 1936 Olympics where he won a silver medal. At UCLA he lettered in four sports: football, baseball, basketball and track. In 1942 he was drafted for Uncle Sam's segregated Army, serving until 1944.

He began playing baseball for a Negro team in Kansas City. He performed so well that a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers asked him to meet with Branch Rickey, its general manager. A devout Christian, who refused to attend games on Sunday, Rickey dreamed of hiring the first Negro to play in the major leagues.

"I want to win the pennant and we need ball players. Do you think you can do it?" Jackie paused and replied, "Yes." However, Rickey warned that if Jackie became the first major league black player, he would be subject to a tremendous amount of abuse - verbal and physical. "What I don't know is whether you have the guts enough not to fight back."

Jackie believed God had chosen him for this noble purpose - for all the black people who deserved someone to break this ground for him. He knew he had to do it - for black kids, for his wife, and for himself.

Rickey read from the Sermon on the Mount, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say unto you, that ye resist evil: But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

He played his first year for Montreal in 1946 and batted .349, a team record, and helped the Royals win 100 games - most in history. That prompted Rickey to ask him to play for the Dodgers.

Walking to the plate the first time, he heard, "Hey nigger, why don't you go back to the cotton field where you belong?" Hotels and restaurants refused to serve him.

But he was voted 1947 Rookie of the Year. In 1953 Jackie batted .329 and led Brooklyn to win the National League pennant. They lost in the World Series, but won another pennant in 1955 and then went on to take the World Series.

The Lord honors those who honor him.

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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